You’re debt free! Now what?

According to Dr Google, it is a regular occurrence for those who have been in debt for a long time to go mental when they become debt free. Some people just spend money like it ain’t no thaaang, making it rain on everything they felt they’ve been deprived of. They don’t realise they’re spending so much money. It’s little purchases: a drink here, a lunch there, new set of makeup brushes, or a few new decks of cards, or paying for other people to do activities with them… Whatever it may be. But the purchases really quickly add up and then that person can no longer afford their bills. 

The other type of person goes balls to the wall insane and makes outlandish purchases that end them back in debt. I couldn’t understand how anyone would let that happen to themselves until I made the final payment on my debt this morning. I called the bank and asked for the pay out amount, and requested to pay it there and then. I handed over my card information, they said congratulations and offered me a new loan (to which I laughed politely then declined), then I hung up. 

Then the panic set in. I’m actually financially free. Of course I still have responsibilities like rent, phone, electricity etc; but for all intents and purposes, I’m not beholden to a big bank who’ll chase me down and cut off my legs should I miss a payment. I have options again. Those options terrify me. I noticed over the last two weeks as I began to count down the few remaining days of my debt I was becoming a spend thrift. A movie here, drinks with the girls over there, makeup I really didn’t need… Whatever I kind of felt like buying. Which goes against pretty much everything I kind of/sort of firmly believe. It occurred to me that being in debt for so long (my entire adult life thus far) became part of my day-to-day life and almost became a security blanket. 

I’d lived a very interesting life in my youth and at the start of my adulthood – just before I got in to debt. I travelled/backpacked my own country, I got myself in to stupid situations, and I made decisions that have gotten people killed in other countries (picking up hitchhikers, anyone?). But I lived my life with abandon and freedom. I did what I want, when I wanted to because I had nothing looming over me. Then I got in to debt, and I got use to being in debt. The debt caused my anxiety and helped keep me crippled in my depression. The debt became a useful excuse to not do things. The debt became my paramour, my familiar. And while it sounds strange, it’s something a lot of people experience. Which is why some people don’t cope with being debt free. 

So I wrote myself a letter. I wrote it on my phone and set it to an alarm that will send me the letter every morning when I wake up. The letter will hopefully be a mantra, a reminder and a motivator. The letter is below.

Ok Philippa. Stay calm. 

You need to fight the impulse to spend on things you don’t need or actually want. 

What do you really want to do?

You want to travel. 

You want to spend time abroad, meeting new people.

You want to learn languages properly. 

You want to take dance lessons.

You want to one day own a funeral home. 

You want to provide for your family. 

You need money to do those things. 

You do not need more makeup. You have a lot. And you wear it rarely. The glam girl you dress up as is not who you really are. She is some fun when you’re bored or want to experiment. You’re pretty perfect the way you are. 

Speaking of which, you do not need new face or hair products. You have three (yes, THREE) draws full of them at home. You don’t need nail polish, hair smoother, shampoo or conditioner. You don’t need facemasks, bath bombs, cleaners or soaps. You have a variety of all those things. Bath bombs and bubble baths are a sometimes treat. 

You do not need more books. Your Kindle has the entire Orwell collection. You have Book bub deals delivered to you daily. Let other people buy you books as gifts if that’s what you truly want. 

You do not need new, “better” tech. Your phone still works. In fact, your phone is a glorified texting service. You don’t need updated tech. Wait until your phone dies. Then probably buy something cheaper. You use your phone for banking, messenger, and games. Get off your phone. 

You do not, in any way, shape or form, need more food. Stop eating out so much. You are better than that. You know you can cook and you know you can cook healthy. For some reason you’ve started freaking out and eating way too much. Too much sugar, too much salt, too much fat, too much everything. What happened? You’re not training any more. You need to spend time at the gym. You love the gym and you love the way the gym makes you feel. Gym plus home cooked meals = a much happier and healthier you. Don’t discount yourself because you’re in crisis mode. You’ve got this. 

Make a vision board. Start actually forming real plans for what you want and stick to it. You’re good at forming habits, you’re good at carrying through on what you say you’re going to do. You just need to find that drive again. Build the vision board with a plan of attack for your fitness. Build a vision board and plan of attack for the trekking adventure holiday you want. Build a vision board and plan of attack for owning a home – even if it’s a 20 year plan. 

I believe in you. So many people believe in you. So many people have supported you and rooted for you over the years. You have friends, family, chosen family who love you and have your back. You make them proud for the silliest of reasons, but don’t let them down. Don’t let yourself down by going off the rails because you finally have your financial freedom back. You still have responsibilities, you still have bills. You still have a life to live. So be smart with your money. Build yourself back up. Starting from scratch is not a failure, it is a chance to build an empire the way you want it built – on a solid foundation. Start small, start solid. 

You’ve got this. 

It was hard to be positive towards myself. It was hard to remind myself that I have friends who love me and who have greatly helped me get through my debt. It was hard to remind myself that I’m pretty great. But I have a feeling it will be worth it. The small acts of kindness towards myself over the last few years has had significant impact on those around me, so I’m hoping it will continue to do just that. 

If you’re struggling with debt, it might be a good idea to talk to someone. A professional financial advisor at your bank, a friend, or a family member. If you’re concerned how you’re going to respond when you’re debt free, talk to a professional. Ask around for some hot tips, or strike up the awkward conversation with friends about how they use their money. Think about what you want to do with your life. What is more important to you? The small picture – the immediate satisfaction of that night binge drinking in the casino, or the big picture? The holiday and experiences you want to have?

Stay silly kids, and thanks for being here xx


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